Canton Digest – A Collation of Oddities

Here’s a little collection of oddities for your weekend. Something to take your mind off the Christmas rush. These are events that may occur to anyone foreign-looking in China during a typical week. It’s never a dull moment.

Gweilo

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Image courtesy of https://alchetron.com/Gweilo

This is a rather nasty little Cantonese term which translates to foreign devil / ghost. The locals don’t usually mean any harm by it and there are times when it doesn’t really matter. But if you’re having a bad day and someone calls you Gweilo, you can muster up your best Cantonese rebuke and say:

Now come on mate, that’s uncalled for

 

Bananas in Pajamas

There are times when you may wish you’d walked, or taken public transportation to a destination. Car parks are hard to come by in many cities – especially one with over 14 million people. An attendant will direct you to a narrow spot in the corner. Sometimes you might need to reverse around corners and over humps, bumps, and curbs to successfully park your vehicle.

One young fellow assisted me to a park and proceeded to give instructions (despite my car having side cameras).  Fully aware of his value, he placed one arm inside my open passenger window and helped himself to a pre-lesson banana.

“I’m having this, okay?”

He wondered off grinning at my open-jawed expression. If a half-rotten banana can guarantee me a car park on Wednesdays then I’ll be bringing him a bunch of Dole’s finest next week.

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A picture can paint a thousand words…

 

Shout, Shout, Let it All Out

A good friend of mine was inside a university campus waiting for his lesson to begin. He was on the phone to his father back in Canada. He heard some shouting in really bad English and turned around to see what the kerfuffle was all about. Lo and behold, a man was addressing him in very loud, aggressive English:

“Hey you!  You come China!  You American, you Russian?  Hey! Hey!”

He took off down the road trying to avoid the rambunctious character who was drawing attention from onlookers and passersby. My friend’s father was growing concerned:

“Are you alright son?”

Their conversation was further interrupted: “Hey, you!  You speak England?  Hey!”

“Yes Dad,” he answered calmly “this is a very regular occurrence in China.”

 

Duck Tongues

A lesson finished and we piled back into the lift. One mother was carrying a strange bowl of something.

They’re duck tongues” she said. “Would you like to try one?”  She seemed pretty insistent. Was she trying to shock?  I obliged her and tried one.

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They were rather stringy but had quite a good, gamey, flavour. If you’re interested in importing duck tongues to your local market, let me know on:

youvegottobecrazy@outofyourmind.com

 

Bin Lickers

Eddy is a four year old. He learns English with the big kids (the five and six year olds). His name used to be spelt Eddie but his father hated the last three letters and its reference to death. Eddy regularly makes baby sounds during class and has a penchant for wiggling his bottom at others. He has stated a taste for dog sh*t (his words, not mine) when the class was asked to name their favourite foods. He outdid himself on Monday night with a lunge towards a rather full rubbish bin (trash can). Not content to merely touch, he proceeded to lick the bin’s rim and squeal in delight.

What is there to do but shake one’s head.

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What could be naughtier or nicer?

 

Rabbit Update

Due to the large number of queries about Rachel Rabbit’s health, we can confirm that she is still alive and well in Guangzhou city. This writer was approached by family members seeking permission to “do the deed” and rub out Rachel in time for Christmas dinner. It took one look into her hopeful eyes to decide that the execution would be delayed. Well,  until the next time she misbehaves…..

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The rabbit was well and alive on Friday

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of snippets from southern China. Please leave a message below or spread the love and share this site.

Many thanks for reading!

 

 

Out and About: Golden Oldies Youth Park

They were once young.

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Tai chi warriors

Guangzhou’s Youth Park is a bit of a contradiction in terms. It was designed by the city’s leaders in honour of the youth. Why then is everyone in this park over 65?

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It’s a nice place to go for a stroll before the day gets too hot. Lush tropical vegetation lines the circular path that leads from the busy South Coast Road around about five acres of flat riverside city land. A bored-looking guard keeps an eye on park activity from the comfort of a battered office chair. He must observe a lot. He recognises everyone but acknowledges no-one.

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A step back to a time of innocence when armchair translators hadn’t quite mastered English

Palm trees line the route that snakes past tai chi warriors, hacky sackers (using the Chinese equivalent of a feather attached to a rubber base), the Old Ladies Book Club (15 white-haired women all reading the same book), middle-aged but very fit men shooting hoop (basketball), a Soviet-era gymnasium – complete with rusty equipment, and a modern outdoor exercise area for people to loosen muscles, joints, and other connective tissue.

I’m starting to recognise a few of the regulars. They’d almost certainly recognise the only caucasian male to regularly visit the park. Uncle Jimmy Liang (my wife’s relative) does shirtless laps of the park at least twice a week and spends the rest of his time sipping tea with his workout buddies inside of the gym. The tea provides fortification for all the sets of ultra heavy bench presses and squats he does with perfect form (I kid you not – and this guy is at least 65).

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Fantastic!

No-one outside of this part of the old Liwan District seems to know about the Youth Park. This secluded spot is deep and mystic, undisclosed and unknown. I might be exaggerating its finer points here. Truth is, it’s a nice little spot to escape from the chaos that is Guangzhou – a city of over 14 million urban dwellers. There are plenty of bigger (and better) parks here but they all have Wikipedia entries. Apparently this place doesn’t.

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Please visit our friendly visitor centre for more information

You certainly wouldn’t want to arrange a family or work-related team building session here. Thirty minutes is quite enough thank you very much. It’s an oasis of unobtrusiveness, a place to enjoy a moment of mindfulness before being whacked about the head (figuratively speaking) by the chaotic nature of Cantonese life.

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The area outside Youth Park

As a 41 year old man I’m at least 20 years younger than everybody else here. In this sense, looking around at all the oldies, the Youth Park lives up to its name – and makes this visitor feel young again!